Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 158

3rd March 2013



1.        AN EVENING WITH DEBRA COWAN.  “Singing great songs written by other people” is the unassumingly modest tag-line of our club guest this Thursday (7th), Debra Cowan.  If you saw her performance on either previous visit (2005, 2008) you will agree with Roseanne Cash’s verdict: “Debra has a voice which beautifully combines Celtic and Appalachian sensibilities...deeply satisfying, lyrical and musically elegant.”  She performs both acapella and with guitar and interprets a wide range of traditional and contemporary folk songs from Britain, Ireland and North America.  Based in Massachusetts, Debra tours extensively in both America and the UK and has even been known to drop in on us as an ordinary audience member from time to time.  A grand singer and a lovely person.  Chris Euesden MCs this one and tickets will be available on the door, £8 full or £6.50 concessions.


2.        A DEBUT VISIT BY DEMPSEY & CARSON.  On Thursday 14th March we welcome Kevin Dempsey & Rosie Carson to the club.  Guitarist and singer Kevin has been a fixture on the UK music scene ever since Dando Shaft in the early 70s and he has performed in many settings (e.g. with Whippersnapper, Mary Black and Uiscedwr) but never at the Black Swan, so far as I am aware.  Current collaborators include Karen Tweed, Joe Broughton and his partner tonight, Rosie Carson.  She is a superb young fiddle player and singer, and together this cross-generational duo has released two highly praised albums.  Reviewing the second of these, Oz Hardwick wrote in R2: “the tracks here are mostly from the tradition, yet all are imbued with that unique, slightly hazy timelessness that is so familiar from Dempsey's back catalogue, whilst Carson's fiddle belies her years and demonstrates why she has already picked up a number of awards.”  Stan Graham hosts this one and tickets are £10 full, £8 concessions, through or on the door if not all pre-sold.


3.        MAKE A DATE WITH SINGERS NIGHT.  Our Singers & Musicians Night this month falls on 21st March and could well be another corker.  The February event was a particularly good one, even despite the absence of many regulars.  For example, we were treated to the debut performance by Rakish Collier, a new band put together by Pip Jopling and three of the other Trafalgar Bay Friday night folk musicians.  They showed great promise and I’m sure we’ll hear more of them.  Eddie Affleck hosts the club this week and admission for non-performers is a mere £3 full or £2 concessions.


4.        MARTYN, CATHRYN, BRIAN & BEYOND.  An old and firm favourite of ours returns to the club on 28th March.  Martyn Wyndham-Read has been a fixture on the folk scene since the 1960s and is widely acknowledged as one of the finest singers ever thrown up by the folk revival.  He has a rich repertoire of traditional British and Australian songs alongside modern classics by writers such as Graeme Miles and our very own Stan Graham – who naturally acts as MC for this one.  Tickets are £9 (£7 concessions) online or on the door.


The following week, 4th April, we welcome back the “anglicised Americana” stylings of Nashville songwriter Cathryn Craig and her UK guitarist foil Brian Willoughby, formerly of The Strawbs.  Our April Singers Night falls on the 11th, then comes an evening of traditional songs and tunes with Pete Morton & Roger Wilson (18th), followed by the club debut of last year’s BBC Folk Musician of the Year, Tim Edey (25th),  Check or the club website for full details.


5.        SUMMER & AUTUMN BOOKINGS.  The Thursday night club diary for the rest of 2013 has only a few gaps still left to fill.  Recent signings include Rebekah Findlay (8th August), the return to York of Ben Harker & Emily Weygang (5th September), Sarah McQuaid (19th September) and The Long Hill Ramblers, who include Tom Paley’s son Ben and our old friend Laura Hockenhull (10th October).  Blast From The Past, the company behind last winter’s successful Victorian Christmas show, present “A Brief History of Music” (17th October) and we also have return visits by Tom Lewis (7th November), Clive Carroll (14th November) and 4Square (21st November).


Note also that Maz O’Connor has had to postpone her visit from the previously advertised date of 13th June to 24th October, for the very good reason that she is joining a Royal Shakespeare Company production for three months this summer!


Once the last few diary gaps have been filled I will post a full listing on the club website.





6.        SAM CARTER RETURNS TO YORK.  On Friday night this week (8th), why not head to City Screen Basement, where we are supporting local independent promoter Please Please You to present Sam Carter?  Sam has twice in the past played at the Black Swan and made a big impression each time.  His recently released second album has garnered much acclaim and lead to a TV appearance on Later With Jools Holland.  He is a very accomplished acoustic guitar stylist and a distinctive songwriter, but equally at home singing other people’s songs (as at a recent Sandy Denny tribute, also seen on TV) or traditional numbers.  Tickets are £10 in advance through the City Screen Box Office, or £12 on the door from 8pm.


7.        CRIMES & BALLADS WITH MARTIN & PETER.  Our next show at the National Centre for Early Music is the York Literature Festival special on Tuesday 19th March.  Martin Carthy and the best-selling crime novelist Peter Robinson present a themed show “Crimes and Ballads” in which appropriate songs from Martin are mixed with readings by Peter.  The show begins at 7.30 and the main presentation lasts around 60 minutes, after which there will be a Question and Answer session with Peter, interspersed with a few more songs from Martin.  Finally they will be available in the foyer for informal chat plus book-buying and signing.  Tickets cost £14 from the NCEM Box Office 01904 658338,, and as I write there are fewer than 50 left.


8.        ON COURSE FOR THE OUTSIDE TRACK.  Our April concert at NCEM (Friday 12th) brings to York an outstanding young multi-national band, The Outside Track.  This comprises musicians from Scotland (Ailie Robinson and Fiona Black), from Ireland (Cillian O’Dalaigh and Teresa Horgan, deputising for Norah Rendell who is on maternity leave) and from Canada (Mairi Rankin, of the celebrated musical family The Rankins).  With a line-up which includes harp, accordion, fiddle, flute and guitar, they can brew up an instrumental storm, but they are also strong and subtle on the vocal side.  For example, check out their moving treatment of the poem Inisvaddy Annie on Mike Harding’s 24th February podcast.  With the added bonus of some vigorous step-dancing by Mairi, they are a thoroughly enjoyable live band, as some of us discovered when we saw them in action at last autumn’s Helmsley Folk Weekend.  Frequent club visitor Simon Alexander does the support spot, with his excellent guitar work and a suite of fine songs, and Eddie Affleck will be MC for the night.  Tickets are £14 (£12 concessions) from the NCEM Box Office as above.


9.        JOHN & JON’S BACKYARD SONGS.  On Saturday 20th we again join forces with Please Please You, this time at The Duchess on Stonebow, to present Spiers & Boden on their Backyard Songs tour.  John and Jon write “all areas of the country have their own traditional songs, dances and customs and as part of the spring 2013 tour we are inviting fans to suggest folk gems with local significance, whether it be a traditional song collected nearby that we can perform at the gig, a dance tune associated with the area, or a local group who might cameo in the show.”  In our case, that already means Ebor Morris dancing the Escrick Sword Dance, one of the dances from our local longsword tradition.  If you’d like to find out more or (e.g.) suggest a local folk song, go to and submit a comments form.  Tickets cost £15 through, on 08444 771000 or from the venue, and doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.


10.     FURTHER AHEAD.  We have two more concerts already on sale at the NCEM, namely the Union Jill CD Launch Event on 11th May (with Clive Gregson, Andy Seward and Mark Boyce in the band) and a Summer Double Bill of The Foresters and Stan Graham on 3rd July.  In the autumn, a date has been confirmed for Faustus on 27th September and a couple of other big shows are still under negotiation.  We even have two dates already agreed for spring 2014, namely O’Hooley & Tidow on 12th March and Vin Garbutt on 1st April!





11.     PROGRAMME BEGINS TO TAKE SHAPE.  I recently emailed all the local singers and bands I thought likely to be interested in taking part in this year’s event (which to remind you is 7th, 8th, 9th June) and on the basis of their replies a programme is beginning to take shape.  Inevitably there are some valued performers who cannot be with us this year (holidays, prior bookings, etc.) but most of our firm favourites look like they will be with us once again, alongside some exciting newcomers.  I won’t tempt fate by naming names at this stage, but all being well I should have a full draft programme to share with you in the next of these newsletters at Easter time.  Meanwhile, if you are a folk, roots or acoustic musician based in or near York, haven’t already heard from me, and fancy taking part this year, please do get in touch soon.


12.     WORKSHOPS FEEDBACK SOUGHT.  One suggestion that has been mooted is the inclusion of a few more “workshop” events this year, e.g. on percussion playing.  This poses a bit of a problem as we have little “spare” time or space available on site.  The only viable option would be to hold something in the Oak Room or the Wolfe Room promptly at noon, but that would be time limited to an hour before other events need to kick off.  Alternatively, we could try for something off-site in the late morning, as Soundsphere have done in the past with their Sunday singing workshops.  Can I ask for feedback?  Would you be interested in workshops, on what kinds of theme, and off-site or at the Black Swan?





13.     STOLEN INSTRUMENTS ALERT.  Last weekend (February 23rd) a car was broken into at Escrick, near York, and some rather fine musical instruments belonging to the Manx folk trio Barrule were stolen.  They are a guitar-bouzouki and a guitar, along with effects pedals and other accessories.  See for full details.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the band on 07885 405227.


14.     FOLK MAGAZINES NEWS (1).  Can I remind you that we sell a number of folk music magazines at club functions?  One of these is the national publication The Living Tradition (£3.25) whose current cover feature just happens to be Ewan McLennan, our excellent club guest last Thursday.  We also stock the regional quarterlies Tykes’ News (£1.50, covering much of Yorkshire) and Folk Roundabout (£1, for North Yorkshire, Teesside and the North East).  Spring editions of both are just in and by coincidence another recent club guest Maggie Boyle (of Grace Notes) has the cover feature in Tykes’ News.


Although modestly priced and full of interesting reading, none of these magazines sell in the quantities they used to and we actually lost money on them last year.  If that situation does not improve soon, I am afraid that I will have to consider stopping this service.


15.     FOLK MAGAZINES NEWS (2).  One magazine which we used to distribute was the free title issued by Proper Records, Properganda.  Alas no more.  They write “after 25 issues, it has sadly become necessary to cease publication.  We are grateful to all the contributors, labels, artists, venues, clubs, retailers and festivals that have supported Properganda over the years, but publishing and distributing 75,000 copies of a free magazine has become financially untenable.”  The website “will continue to shout about specialist music.”


There is better news from market leader fRoots.  They are reverting to ten issues a year (from nine) and standardising their price at £4.95, including for the two remaining double issues.  They are also increasing the frequency of their free compilation download albums to five a year or one every other issue.  “Look forward to lots more interesting reading in the coming months, including some great cover features” they say.  “We are proud of one of the unique strengths of fRoots: that unlike many other music magazines we don't need to have famous names with new albums to plug on our front covers.  We always commission our own photography too, rather than relying on stock shots handed out by record labels.  We are also proud that we manage to include more than twice the feature content of our nearest competitor in a typical issue.”


The April issue will be out in a couple of weeks (with our imminent club guest Tim Edey on the cover) and it will contain the comprehensive annual festivals supplement.  Subscription details can be found at


16.     AWARDS, AWARDS, AWARDS.  Only a few weeks ago we have the annual BBC Folk Awards.  I must say I was less enamoured than usual with some of the shortlists and winners, but it was pleasing to see Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman (superb at the NCEM last November) carry off the Best Duo gong.  The Musician of the Year Award for Kathryn Tickell was very welcome, if shamefully long overdue.  Also, I have been very impressed with the CD by Young Folk Award winners Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar and I must try to book them for our club next year.


Now we have the Spiral Earth Awards, from eclectic folk and roots website Spiral Earth, which are decided by public vote.  See for all the shortlists.  Several of our recent guests get a look in, for example Ewan McLennan in both Songwriter and Male Singer categories (where he is up against Sam Carter), and Kirsty McGee in the Best Album contest.  Three of the Best Duo nominees have performed for us, Roberts & Lakeman, Gilmore & Roberts and O’Hooley & Tidow, as has one of the Female Singer nominees Patsy Matheson, while James Findlay (club guest last August) is nominated in the Trad Folk Album category.  Voting closes at noon 14th March and is really simple, taking only a few seconds.  Do it today!


17.     A NEW HOME FOR THE HARROGATE FOLK CLUB.  A couple of months ago I reported that the monthly gathering of singers and musicians in Harrogate had lost its venue.  Happily, Edna Barker writes that they have now found a new home, at the Dropping Well Inn (formerly Mother Shipton’s) in Knaresborough.  Unfortunately, they are having to meet on a Thursday, so the same night as us, but it is only monthly and only a Singers Club, so I am happy to give it an initial mention.  Meetings will be on the second Thursday of each month at 8pm, commencing on 14th March.


18.     DAVID’S DARK SIDE.  Regular club visitor David Kidman writes that he and some other local acts have tracks on a new double CD compilation from the Cold Spring label.  Hail Be You Sovereigns, Lief And Dear is the third in a series called Dark Britannica that “celebrates our dark folk heritage”.  David sings Summon Up The Sun and The Green Man, while Sixpenny Wayke (Oz Hardwick et al) and Leeds outfit Beneath The Oak also feature.  Find out more at


19.     ON THE ROAD WITH FAKE JAKE.  John Watterson, aka Fake Thackray, asks me to point you again towards his humorous tour blog at  John is approaching the end of his tour as Fairport Convention’s opening act, but scarcely has time to draw breath before a whole slew of solo concerts and festivals.  Sadly, he is one of the people that cannot be around for the York Folk Weekend as booked elsewhere.


20.     LEARN TO PLAY DAY.   Saturday 16th March is the latest Learn To Play Day, a national initiative to encourage more people to take up an instrument.  Local stores offering a free lesson that day include Music Room on Lendal in York and our friends at Red Cow Music on Goodramgate.  Find out more at





21.     BERT’S ACOUSTIC ROUTES.  Tomorrow night, 4th March, at York City Screen there is a single screening (8:45pm) of a documentary film about the late great Bert Jansch.  Directed by Jan Leman, Acoustic Routes was originally made as a BBC documentary in 1992 but has now been re-edited with extra performance footage for cinema and DVD release.  In plotting Bert’s lengthy career it offers a fascinating history of the fertile British folk scene of the 1960s and beyond.  The on-screen roster of musicians citing Jansch as a major influence and a valued colleague includes Wizz Jones, Martin Carthy, John Renbourn, Ralph McTell and Anne Briggs and the film is enthusiastically narrated by Billy Connolly.  Check it out!


22.     THE BASEMENT JAPES.  Staying at City Screen but moving down to the Basement, Tuesday night 5th March sees a celebration of Bob Dylan with Root 64 (Miles Cain, Oz Hardwick and Nick Thompson) and Blonde on Bob, fronted by our own Chris Euesden.  This York Literature Festival event starts at 8.30 and cost £8.  Note that Rory Motion, previously advertised, is no longer able to appear.


23.     HOLLY’S UNDERGROUND ACOUSTIC.  Next Saturday, 9th March, Holly Taymar hosts another of her Underground Acoustic Club events at Clements Hall on Nunthorpe Road in York’s South Bank.  Appearing are singer-songwriters Stephanie Lambring, from Nashville, and Alastair Artingstall, from London, as well as Holly and her partner Chris Bilton.  Find out more and book tickets at


24.     DRUMS, FLUTE AND POETRY.  Two further York Literature Events involve an element of music and may be of interest.  On Saturday 16th March at 8.15 at Friargate Theatre there is Japanese drumming from Folk Weekend stars Kaminari Taiko alongside poetry by Oz Hardwick (his fourth name-check this issue!).  And on Saturday lunchtime 23rd March in the lovely setting of Holy Trinity Church on Goodramgate, the magic flute of our old friend Jack Firminger combines with storyteller Helen M Sant and poet Andy Humphrey.  Find full details in the Lit Fest programme or online at


25.     DUNCAN’S BACK, HEAD TO HEAD WITH BLACKBEARD’S.  Folk rocker Duncan McFarlane had a bit of a rough time last year due to illness but now he’s back in full flight action and on Saturday 6th April he brings his electric band to York for a night at the Fulford Arms pub.  In the line-up is a new bass player, York-based Martin Ward, and Nick Hall (of Hall Brothers fame) will be the support.


On the same night Blackbeard’s Tea Party are launching their brand new CD with a show at The Duchess, so it is folk-rock all round!  Unfortunately Blackbeard’s cannot manage the Folk Weekend this year, but Duncan’s band will definitely be there on the Saturday afternoon and are sure to be a highlight of the festival.




Here is a gallop through some club gatherings and concerts of note.


26.     MARCH 5th IN POCKLINGTON.  Touring to promote her album of self-penned songs, Heidi Talbot appears at Pocklington Arts Centre accompanied by husband John McCusker and guitarist Ian Carr.


27.     MARCH 13th IN PICKERING.  Political singer/songwriter Joe Solo appears at Pickering Acoustic Music at the Sun Inn, Westgate.  Joe released a new CD a few weeks ago and has picked up airplay on the very excellent Mike Harding weekly podcast.


28.     MARCH 15th IN SELBY.  Edinburgh-based folk / bluegrass outfit Southern Tenant Folk Union are in concert at Selby Town Hall,


29.     MARCH 16th IN OTLEY.  Genre-crossing outfit Old Dance School are in concert at Otley Courthouse, with support from Seafret.


30.     MARCH 17th IN TOPCLIFFE.  Two songwriters who are frequent visitors to the Black Swan are John Storey and Paula Ryan.  Tonight they share an evening at the G String Acoustic Club at the Angel Inn on Long Street.


31.     MARCH 22nd IN THIRSK.  For their next show, Loosely, Folk present New York-based singer Rebecca Pronsky, accompanied by Rich Bennett on guitar.  That’s at The Courthouse,, 01845 526536.  Future Loosely, Folk events include Gilmore & Roberts (26th April), Fran Smith & Tracey Browne (17th May), Blair Dunlop Trio (14th June) and Jeni & Billy (12th July).


32.     MARCH 23rd IN HOWDEN.  Howden Live present young roots bands The Buffalo Skinners and Holy Moly & The Crackers, at the Shire Hall.


33.     MAY 24th IN FARNDALE.  The Band Room in Farndale is a great little venue which punches well above its weight.  They have announced a visit by The Handsome Family on 24th May and also have summer fixtures with The Blue Mosquitoes of Tasmania (29th June), Ruth Moody (of The Wailin’ Jennys, 5th July) and Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys (22nd July). See




Lastly, an equally brisk gallop through some of the northern folk festivals lined up this Spring.



34.     DARLINGTON SPRING THING is traditionally first off the starting black and this year takes place 22nd-24th March.  Artists include Richard Digance, Bram Taylor, The Wilsons, Flossie and recent Singers Night visitors at the Black Swan, Steve Hicks & Lynne Goulbourne.  Find details at


35.     MALTON & NORTON FOLK FESTIVAL takes place on 19th and 20th April and has headliners Wendy Arrowsmith, The Hall Brothers, Broken Ground and York’s own Two Black Sheep & A Stallion.  Find out more at


36.     IREBY FESTIVAL is a great little event in Cumbria, now in its 11th year and taking place on 24th and 25th May 2013 on the northern fringes of the Lake District, with Seth Lakeman, The Paperboys, Ahab and a host of others. The web site is


37.     FESTIVAL ON THE MOOR moves north to Kildale this year, on 24th-27th May, with headliners The Home Service and lots of singarounds, sessions and concerts in a beautiful setting.  Find out more at


38.     SUTTON UPON DERWENT FOLK WEEKEND is a new one on me.  All I know is from a flyer which came my way.  This says “Folk Weekend and Anthem Writing Competition for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance”, taking place 31st May to 2nd June at the Village Hall.  Steve Tilston headlines on the Saturday evening.  There is no website but there is a contact phone number 07708 970083, and email


39.     BEDALE ACOUSTIC MUSIC, BAMFEST, is a much more ambitious event making its debut that same weekend, 31st May-2nd June.  This has bluesman Dave Kelly, Bob Fox, Flossie, The Young ‘Uns, Blackbeard’s Tea Party, Duncan McFarlane’s Acoustic Band and many more in its programme.  See for lots more info.


40.     NATURE’S WORLD FESTIVAL, held in Middlesbrough each summer, is having to change venue this year due to the closure of the Nature’s World complex.  It will instead be held over the weekend of 13th & 14th July, in the afternoons, at the Dormans Club on Oxford Road in Linthorpe.  For information, please contact the organising team via



And that is finally that!  Another monster round-up as spring starts to bring out more folkies!